jamaican black bean soup

 

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Soups in Jamaica are hearty. Black bean soup can be as thin or as thick as you desire. Serve it thick like a stew as a main meal with ham or sausage, or serve it thin as a soup course. The scotch bonnet pepper (or habañero can be a substitute) adds flavor as much as it adds heat, which is very mild actually, so don’t be afraid to use it. When they are available in Bangkok I buy them, and freeze the extra for future use.

Jamaican Black Bean Soup (adapted from ethnic spicy food and more)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 small scotch bonnet pepper, slit twice to release the flavors
1 1/2 cups vegetarian broth (substitute: chicken broth)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed (1 1/2 cups dried)
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2-3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (shake well before opening)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced fine

Cook vegetables. In a large stockpot, bring the temperature to medium heat. Swirl in the oil. Add the chopped red onion, red bell pepper, garlic, ginger and scotch bonnet pepper. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are somewhat tender. Add the broth, thyme and beans. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Sprinkle in the salt and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Purée cooked vegetables. Pour half of the soup into a blender or food processor. Pulse the soup to create a chunky mixture. Pour the puréed mixture back in with the remaining soup. Add the coconut milk and stir in the cilantro. Serve hot.

Variations

  • For a main meal, grill two sweet or hot Italian or Kielbasa sausages or turkey ham. Chop coarsely. Add to soup with the purée.
  • Use dried black beans instead of canned. Put 2 cups of beans, 6 cups of water, 3 tablespoons oil in pressure cooker. Cook 25 minutes. If beans were soaked overnight in the refrigerator, cook them 3-6 minutes.

rice and peas and fricassee chicken

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Black Bean Soup with Rice and Peas and Fricassee Chicken

Every cook in Jamaica has his/her own version of rice and peas. There are recipes that you cook on the stove top and those you cook in a rice cooker. But every rice and peas recipe that I know of uses salt beef or pork to make the broth, except this one. I thought I would try it to see how it tastes. Andy said he missed the smoky flavor of the salt beef, but otherwise, it was full of flavor.

Rice and peas is almost always accompanied with chicken. The fricassee chicken recipe that follows is my mother’s. It’s very simple and relies on seasoning salt to flavor the meat. Then you add tomatoes, garlic and onions, salt and pepper, and that’s it.

Rice and Peas (adapted from The Essential NYTimes Cookbook)
Servings: 8

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1-4 cloves garlic, minced
1-4 scallions, sliced thin
2 cups jasmine rice
one 14-oz can unsweetened coconut milk, well shaken
1 1/2 cups water
1 sprig thyme
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper or Habañero pepper
two 15 oz cans small red beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed (1 ½ cups dried)
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

If using dried beans, soak overnight in enough water to cover. Drain, then cook in fresh water to cover in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a Dutch pot with a tight fitting lid over medium heat.

Add garlic and scallion and cook, stirring, just until softened, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat if necessary to prevent browning.

Add the rice, coconut milk, water, thyme, Scotch bonnet, beans, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat then stir well, reduce the heat to very low. Cover tightly and cook without disturbing for 25 to 30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is very tender.

Taste. Add black pepper and salt to taste. Fluff rice before serving. Serve with a fricassee of chicken.

Fricassee Chicken
4 chicken legs
3 chicken thighs, preferably boneless and trimmed of excess fat
Seasoning salt
3 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups onions, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

In a large Dutch pot, heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium-high. Sprinkle seasoning salt generously on the skin and undersides of the chicken. Brown the chicken pieces then set aside.

To the oil remaining in the pot, add the tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Cook until the onions are just beginning to soften. Return the chicken to the pot and bring to a boil on medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes or until the chicken pieces are done. Taste and adjust seasoning.

jamaican sunday breakfast: bully beef and johnny cakes

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This is the breakfast we ate on Sundays in Jamaica, especially at the beach house, when the morning was fresh and cool. We’d eat bully beef–corned beef cooked with tomatoes, onions, and to wake up the mouth, scotch bonnet pepper. Bully beef is actually colloquial Jamaican patois for tinned corned beef. A popular accompaniment to bully beef was johnny cakes, a kind of fried biscuit–in the American sense of the word biscuit; a savory but light round of wheat dough fried and best eaten when it is warm. Every cook in Jamaica has his/her own recipe for johnny cakes; my mother used to make hers with lard. Johnny cakes are also an accompaniment for another Jamaican favorite, ackee and saltfish. They can also be enjoyed with butter and jam.

Bully Beef
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients
1 tin corned beef
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
1/4 to 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped, with or without seeds (optional)

Preparation
Heat a teaspoon vegetable oil in a large skillet. Fry the tomatoes and onions until the onions are translucent. Add the corned beef to the tomato mixture, breaking up the large pieces, until softened. Mix in the scotch bonnet pepper, if using. Serve at once.

Johnny Cakes (adapted from a Grace recipe)
Makes 18-24 cakes

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus more for flouring the board and rolling pin
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
9-10 tablespoons ice water
oil for frying

Preparation
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and vegetable shortening. With the paddle attachment, mix on low speed (1) until the butter and shortening are incorporated the size of small peas. With the machine on, add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until the flour mixture comes together in a ball and the sides are clean. Switch to the dough hook and mix on low to medium speed (2) until the dough is smooth and elastic. Switch off the machine and remove the dough ball.

On a lightly floured surface and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut dough into rounds.

Fill a 10 inch skillet with enough oil to cover the bottom and come 1/2 inch up the sides. Heat the oil.

Cook’s Note: My sister-in-law Lorraine showed me this trick how to tell the oil is hot enough. The oil will be hot enough to fry when a wooden chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon, when inserted in the middle of the oil, gathers bubbles around the stick.

Fry the dough rounds in batches until they are puffed and lightly golden. Remove with tongs to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool. Serve warm.

jamaican pepperpot soup with dumplins

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It’s winter in Bangkok, which means the temperature dips from a sweltering 30 degrees Celsius to a relatively mild 23 degrees. So naturally, my thoughts turn to a spicy soup from Jamaica to brace both body and soul. In texture a pepperpot is thicker than a soup but not as thick as a stew. It’s in between. We eat it with dumplins and a side of rice, but that’s up to you.

Jamaican Pepperpot Soup with Dumplins (adapted from Cooking the Caribbean Way)

Servings: 6-8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60-75 minutes

2 lb stewing beef or pork shoulder, cubed
8 oz. salt beef, pork or bacon, chopped (I used bacon)
1 1/2 cups okra, chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 bunch callaloo or spinach, chopped
2 scallions, chopped (I used 3/4 of a large onion, sliced)
1 lb yellow yams, sliced (I used 1 1/2 carrots, sliced)
1 coco or large potato, sliced
1 sprig thyme (2 teaspoons dried)
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, optional (I substituted 2 Thai chilies)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, brown the salt meat in a little oil or brown the bacon until some oil is released. Add the meat and brown. Add enough water to cover, and bring to a near boil; simmer 30 minutes. Add yams or carrots and coco or potato. Simmer 15 minutes, then add okras, kale, spinach or callaloo, scallions or onions and simmer 15 minutes. Add 2 cups water to the pot. Add thyme, garlic, chili peppers, and salt and pepper to taste. Dumplins can be added to the soup. Stir and simmer another 15 minutes.

Mom’s Dumplins

2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Put flour in a large bowl. Dissolve the shortening in hot water. Pour the shortening mixture into the flour and combine. Pinch off about an inch of dough and roll between your hands to make a cigar shape. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Heat a small pot of water to boiling and add the dumplins in batches. When they float, they are done. Drain dumplins and add to the pepperpot soup. Continue until all dumplins are cooked and added to the pepperpot.

green banana with escovitch sauce

DSC03887In Jamaica, probably the next most popular dish after rice and peas is escovitch fish. This improbable dish is of Latin origin where it is called escabeche. In Jamaica escovitch fish is a fried fish, all salty and crisp,  served with a spicy hot vinegar, onion, tomato, and chili sauce. I made this vegan version of escovitch with boiled green bananas. It’s simple really, a simple vegan meal. The green bananas are actually bland like a potato, but the escovitch sauce adds interest–sour, salty, sweet.  I served it with a colorful basmati rice salad made with corn, sweet red peppers, and golden raisins with a handful of scallions sprinkled on top.

6 green bananas

Cut off the tips of each banana and make a shallow slit from end to end. Place in a pot of boiling water, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, remove the bananas to a plate and let them cool slightly. Remove the skins. Meanwhile, wash out the pot and put in about 8 cups water with 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil and return the peeled bananas to the pot. Boil gently for 10 minutes. Add a cup of cold water and boil for 5 more minutes. Drain the bananas and let cool. Slice into chunks and set aside.

For the sauce (from WikiHow)
4 large cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup ripe tomatoes, chopped (I used grape tomatoes)
1/2 cup onion, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon mixed peppercorns, optional
2 Thai chilies or 1 scotch bonnet pepper, optional (I recommend the scotch bonnet!)
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 large pinches of sugar
Salt

Saute the garlic, tomatoes, onions and peppercorns. When the vegetables are wilted and fragrant with pepper, add the chilies, lime juice vinegar, sugar, and salt to taste. Heat through. Pour over the boiled green bananas.

To tell you the truth, I just used tomatoes and onions, vinegar and sugar.

jamaican hard dough bread

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I think I made a two-fer one recipe for bread.

This weekend I adapted a recipe for Amish White Bread and renamed it Teddy’s Bread. Two days after baking it, the bread settled into that familiar dense structure that we call hard dough in Jamaica. It’s still soft and moist. At home, we’d spread condensed milk on the slices and eat it. Me, I loved to eat it with peanut butter and strawberry jam. So whatever its incarnation–Amish White Bread, Teddy’s Bread, or Hard Dough Bread–there is nothing like it!

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jerk pork tenderloin with mango-avocado-tomato salsa

jerk pork tenderloin with mango-avocado-tomato salsa

This juicy pork tenderloin recipe was inspired by Gina at skinnytaste. com.  To me it is mildly spicy, and the cool slightly sweet salsa accompaniment just soothes the tongue!
P.S. I wanted to add this note to anyone concerned about the safety of pink pork. Pork is safe to eat when the internal temperature rises to 150˚F. For more information visit this link by America’s Test Kitchen/Shine Food.

Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Mango-Avocado-Tomato Salsa

Prep time: 5 hours (or overnight) plus 15 minutes
Cook time: 25-35 minutes depending on the weight
Servings: 6-8 as appetizer, 2-4 as main course

Ingredients:
• 1 lb lean pork tenderloin, all fat and silver removed
• 3 cloves garlic, crushed
• 2 – 3 tablespoons Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning
• 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
• 1 lime, squeezed
• 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
• 1/4 -1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

For the salsa:
• 2 Haas avocadoes, diced
• 1 tomato, chopped
• 2 large ripe mangos, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
• 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped red onion
• 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
• 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine the garlic, jerk seasoning, and salt, rub all over pork (wear gloves if you wish). Place in a 8 inch square pan, then pour the lime and orange juices over the pork. Turn so that the juices cover all the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 5 hours or overnight, turning pork occasionally.

The next day (or 5 hours later), preheat the oven to 350˚F. Remove pork from the marinade and discard the marinade. Bake the pork 25 minutes for 3/4 pound roast or up to 35 minutes for at 1 pound roast. When it has reached an internal temperature of 155˚F (check it 5 minutes before time is up), remove it from the oven and let it rest on the stovetop. The tenderloin should come to 160˚F during resting, about 5-10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Meanwhile make the salsa: combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate salsa until ready to serve.

plantain tartelettes

I’m on a mission. A mission to make morsels of dessert that satisfy a sweet tooth without causing serious  overindulgence! After getting a plantain tart recipe at Easter from my cousins Peter and Karen, I was anxious to try it out. I had an idea to make tartelettes, mini-tarts filled with plantain. So I patiently waited for a plantain to ripen. Diana says they ripen on Jamaica time–it takes 7-10 days in a paper bag. My patience paid off and I finally got a ripe one.

Traditionally, the filling for plantain tarts is bright red. Unfortunately, the recipe  did not say how much red food coloring to use, so I decided to be conservative and try for a “dusty rose” shade. I merely succeeded in making it brown. Still, if it tastes like a plantain, then it must be a plantain. I did leave out the raisins–to me it’s sacrilegious to add any to a plantain tart.  The pastry, I must say,  is exquisite. It came out tender and flaky. However, I think  this filling could be more flavorful to go head to head with this pastry.

Plantain Tartelettes

Pastry
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable shortening
2-4 tablespoons iced water

Filling
1 cup ripe plantain, peeled and cut up
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon chopped raisins, optional
Red food coloring, optional

To make the filling:

  1. In a saucepan combine plantain, sugar, and water
  2. Cook over low heat until plantain is cooked through, about 5 minutes. The plantains will change from pinkish-orange when raw to deep yellow when cooked.
  3. Remove from heat and mash lightly. Add nutmeg, vanilla, butter, raisins if using, and red food coloring, if using. After adding 12 drops red and 4 drops blue, the plantain mixture turned dark brown.
  4. Allow filling to cool before filling tartelettes.

To make the pastry:

  1. Combine flour and salt with shortening and cut into pastry until flaky. Add iced water to bind together. [I used 2 tablespoons iced water.] Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate, about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 450˚F.
  3. Roll out chilled dough on a lightly floured board to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into 40 two-inch rounds. Cake Baker’s Tip: If the dough warms it may become difficult to handle. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 15 minutes. Use a flat blade spatula to lift each round off the cutting board.
  4. Spoon about 1/2  tablespoon cooled filling in the center of each round. Top with another pastry round and gently press the edges together. Crimp one side with the tines of a fork.
  5. Place tartelettes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Brush tops of tartelettes  with a little milk.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes at 450˚F. Reduce heat to 350˚F and bake for 15-20 minutes. Pastry should be delicately brown.  Makes 20 tartelettes.

night of the spiderman

Spiderman the musical. What a concept. With Gotham City’s tilted perspectives, conflicted mutant superhero and super-evil villain, and great acrobatics mimicking computer generated special effects, this Spidey even got angst. Unlike another Gotham superhero, this one also got the girl.  There was never any doubt that the good guy would vanquish evil. It was great escapist fantasy for a couple of hours!

After we got back to the apartment I decided to make a post-show treat. Bulla! In Jamaica, a common shout on the playground was “yu get bulla!” meaning, zero, zip, zilch, nada, nothing. I got this recipe from Peter and Karen’s copy of Traditional Jamaican Cookery by Norma Benghiat (pronounced ben-gate). Besides a playground taunt, bulla is a quick bread made from flour and spices. It is always baked as a round loaf. I’ve begun to wonder if “bulla” is derived from the French boule which means “ball” and is a round loaf of bread.  It reminded me of an Irish soda bread and I wondered if this might be another ancestor of the bulla. Its etymology notwithstanding, this bulla came out dense, slightly sweet and delicately spicy.

3 cups flour plus extra for rolling and dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon grated ginger
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 /2 cup sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup water (originally 1:1)

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Melt a tablespoon of butter and add 1/2 tablespoon of flour. Use a pastry brush to apply the butter mixture to the bottom and sides of a 9″ round pan. If using a pan with a dark nonstick finish, reduce the heat to 350 and remove the bulla from the oven 5 minutes before cooking time is up.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, allspice. Mix in ginger and  melted butter. Gradually add the sugar water to make a firm dough.

Knead the dough until the sides of the bowl are clean and the ball of dough not sticky. Roll out dough on lightly floured board until it is 1/2 inch thick. Roll the dough into a 9” circle. Dust both sides lightly with flour. Put the dough in the prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Eat the bulla warm with butter and jam.